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Latin American Melodrama

Passion, Pathos, and Entertainment

Darlene J. Sadlier

Publication Year: 2009

Like their Hollywood counterparts, Latin American film and TV melodramas have always been popular and highly profitable. The first of its kind, this anthology engages in a serious study of the aesthetics and cultural implications of Latin American melodramas. Written by some of the major figures in Latin American film scholarship, the studies range across seventy years of movies and television within a transnational context, focusing specifically on the period known as the "Golden Age" of melodrama, the impact of classic melodrama on later forms, and more contemporary forms of melodrama. An introductory essay examines current critical and theoretical debates on melodrama and places the essays within the context of Latin American film and media scholarship._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Luisela Alvaray, Mariana Baltar, Catherine L. Benamou, Marvin D'Lugo, Paula Felix-Didier, Andres Levinson, Gilberto Perez, Darlene J. Sadlier, Cid Vasconcelos, and Ismail Xavier.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

The idea for a volume about Latin American melodrama emerged during the 2005 conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in London. There, one evening, Gilberto Perez and I began talking about older Latin American films and our favorite melodramas. The lively...

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Introduction: A Short History of Film Melodrama in Latin America

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pp. 1-18

In 1990, in recognition of the approaching centenary of film, the journal Artes de México: Nueva época dedicated an entire issue to photographs and commentaries about Mexican cinema. Directors, actors, cinematographers, scriptwriters, film historians, and critics from different generations...

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1. Melodrama of the Spirited Woman: Aventurera

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pp. 19-32

Everybody speaks of melodrama, often disparagingly, but it’s not easy to define it. The definition I heard as a kid was that melodrama makes the characters subordinate to the plot, but when I read the Poetics I saw that Aristotle prescribed the same thing for tragedy. Some would...

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2. Melodrama and the Emergence of Venezuelan Cinema

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pp. 33-49

The melodramatic imagination in Venezuela as in other parts of Latin America has been described by many theorists as accompanying the experiences of modernity. It manifests itself through different media and acquires multiple formats—theatrical chronicles, the feuilleton, radionovelas...

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3. The Building of a Nation: La geurra gaucha as Historical Melodrama

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pp. 50-63

In every review of, tribute to, or celebration of the history of Argentine cinema there is invariably a reference or allusion to La guerra gaucha (The Gaucho War, 1942). Directed by Lucas Demare, the film became one of Argentina’s most revered pictures. Its public and critical success...

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4. Women as Civilizers in 1940s Brazilian Cinema: Between Passion and the Nation

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pp. 64-76

The growing interest of the Brazilian state in cinema from the 1930s onward took place within a very broad context. Under the Estado Novo (New State) dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas (1937–45), there was an attempt to achieve greater political and cultural centralization of local oligarchies...

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5. The Humiliation of the Father: Melodrama and Cinema Novo's Critique of Conservative Modernization

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pp. 77-95

During the late 1960s, a significant shift in focus toward the representation of private life and family dramas occurred in Brazilian cinema. This change took place after a decade in which the national cinema had primarily concerned itself with the public sphere and with labor...

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6. Nelson Pereira dos Santos's Cinema de lágrimas

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pp. 96-109

In 1994 the distinguished Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos, who is widely regarded as the founder of the radical Cinema Novo movement of the 1960s and 1970s, began work on a project for the British Film Institute (BFI) to commemorate the centenary of cinema. The...

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7. Luis Alcoriza; or, A Certain Antimelodramatic Tendency in Mexican Cinema

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pp. 110-129

At the center of Luis Alcoriza’s award-winning 1971 film Mecánica nacional (National Mechanics) we find a scene that self-consciously parodies one of the prominent tropes that historically have shaped Mexico’s movie melodramas: the cult of the iconic maternal figure. Set in a rural...

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8. Weeping Reality: Melodramatic Imagination in Contemporary Brazilian Documentary

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pp. 130-138

A middle-aged man faces the camera in his living room. An offscreen voice asks him about family matters and everyday life until he gradually begins to recount episodes from the labor struggle of the late 1970s, during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Led by union president...

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9. Televisual Melodrama in an Era of Transnational Migration: Exporting the Folkloric Nation, Harvesting the Melancholic-Sublime

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pp. 139-171

Over the course of the past few decades, film scholars North and South have found in the themes, audiovisual styles, popular archetypes, casting, and settings of screen melodrama fertile terrain for an investigation of the social dynamics and aesthetics of “national” cinemas in...


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pp. 173-174

Index of Names and Titles

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pp. 175-183

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252092329
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252034640

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2009